When I approach the annual season of giving, I become anxious. So much shopping to do! So little time! What will I give? How much to spend? How shall I wrap the items? When am I going to do all of this? I get caught up with the stress of hurried acquisition, so much so that the items become chores, empty boxes to check off, instead of heartfelt manifestations of appreciation for my loved ones.
Moreover, as I get older, I no longer have an answer for those who seek to know What do I want for Christmas? For several years, I've wanted the same thing. Nothing. Or, um, I guess some socks. Or, mid-day walks for my dog. Practical gifts like gas money, new tires, a food dehydrator, a flour mill. Useful gifts that keep on giving. However, Christmas gifts are not usually practical. For me, and I'm guessing for others, the joy of receiving gifts "for giving's sake" is fleeting, as the gifts always change back into pumpkins after midnight - reverting to ordinary objects, stuff of fiber and plastic - devoid of their previous glossed-on significance. With all details considered, the entire experience of giving - the purchasing, the giving, the gratitude - is cherished, not the gift itself.
Each year, I vow more and more strongly to break away from cycle of giving, for its effects are short-lived. We should be giving each other long-lasting love, time, and experiences, rather than objects that are only momentarily important. This is hard to do for some, since love, time, and experience are not items that can be qualified, quantified, or purchased. There is no evidence - real, "you can touch it" evidence - for these things. We, materialistic by nature, need evidence of these concepts. However, powerful experiences and time spent with loved ones can be evidenced in the cherishing and remembering of moments, time and time again. Memories linger in a different, more lasting way than objects can. In this way, new experiences and rituals can fortify relationships and make us feel connected, and alive.
Instead of engaging in intricate gift-giving ceremonies at Christmastime, we might think about creating new rituals that would bring about the same positive effects as gift-giving. Laughing. Eyes smiling. Emotional gains all around. Boosting of happiness. Elevation of collective mood. I think we need to bring the focus back to relationships, not stuff, for the future can't be created in the collecting of possessions. Our futures are created in the nourishment of each other.